They make a decent living off of making and hawking their hooch. And it’s all going just fine until Special Agent Charley Rake (Guy Pearce) comes to town. Rake expects every bootlegger to pay a fee. The Bondurant boys expect him to bug off.
With a movie like Lawless, you can expect a lot of gunfire and dead bodies. It delivers on both counts, setting up the characters as determined and thirsty and each showdown to be as tense as the last. Other token items found in every Depression-era actioner also present in Lawless include worn-down cabins, puttering getaway cars, belly guns, and unwashed mason jars.
The movie is directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road) and written by Nick Cave, who adapted a book by Jack Bondurant’s grandson. Because Hillcoat is behind the lens, you can expect the look and approach to be grimy and unbathed, the heroes and villains ruthless. These locales and characters are dirty and stained.
Lawless looks and feels like a Hillcoat movie, but it’s not nearly as compelling as his last two. The Aussie western The Proposition put a much-needed jolt in the genre, while The Road was a faithful take on Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel. Those two movies stood out in their respective genres. Lawless merely puts on a trilby hat, loads its Smith & Wesson and lets conventions do the rest.
As for the characters, we get a pretty good idea of what the leads are about early on and they don’t seem to develop much from there. Cave’s script even goes as far as to throw in a couple of romance subplots involving Forrest and a Chicago dancer (Jessica Chastain) and Jack and the preacher’s daughter (Mia Wasikowska) to help flesh out the men. Most of the cast does a fine job with what they’re given to work with. The notable exception is Shia LaBeouf, who is as hard to buy as a moonshiner as he was Indiana Jones’ offspring. He just looks like a kid playing dress-up and trying out accents.
Deleted Scenes (7:58): There are six here, which can be viewed separately or together. They are: “6 Legged Cow,” “Forrest and Tizwell,” “Campfire (Alternate),” “Howard Tells Forrest That Jack Stole the Moonshine,” “Rakes and Feather,” “Jr. with Brass Knuckles.”
The True Story of the Wettest County in the World (21:33): This featurette provides information regarding the inspirations for the film.
Franklin County, VA: Then and Now (6:11): This piece looks at the history of Franklin County, which served as the setting of Lawless.
The Story of the Bondurant Family (12:44): Matt Bondurant, who wrote the novel on which Lawless is based, discusses his work, as well as his family’s life and times.
Also included are a DVD and Digital Copy.